The story behind Palm Sunday begins, not in Jerusalem in the time of Christ, but in Babylon several hundred years earlier. The prophet Daniel, who was among the Jews who were taken captive by the Babylonians, was reading in the Book of Jeremiah. He understood that the seventy years of servitude were almost over and he began to pray for his people. The Angel Gabriel interrupted Daniel's prayer and gave him a four-verse prophecy that is unquestionably the most remarkable passage in the entire Bible: Daniel 9:24-27.
The Meshiach Nagid
The first verse of the prophecy, Daniel 9:24 says: "Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy Place."
This verse is essentially an overview of the entire prophecy. The idiom of a "week" of years was common in Israel. The prophecy encompasses seventy weeks, that is, seventy times seven years, or 490 years. However verse 26 indicates that there is an interval between the 69th and 70th weeks.
A very specific prediction occurs in the next verse: "Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times (Daniel 9:25)."
This includes a mathematical prophecy. The Jewish (and Babylonian) calendars used a 360-day year; 69 weeks of 360-day years totals 173,880 days. In effect, Gabriel told Daniel that the interval between the commandment to rebuild Jerusalem until the presentation of the Messiah as King would be 173,880 days. The "Messiah the Prince" in the King James translation is actually the Meshiach Nagid, or "The Messiah the King."
The Countdown Begins
The commandment to restore and build Jerusalem was given by Artaxerxes Longimanus on March 14, 445 BC. (The emphasis in the verse on "the street" and "the wall" was to avoid confusion with other earlier mandates confined to rebuilding the Temple.)
But when did the Messiah present Himself as a King? During the ministry of Jesus Christ there were several occasions in which the people attempted to promote Him as king, but He carefully avoided it, saying "Mine hour is not yet come."
Then one day He meticulously arranges it. On this particular day he rode into the city of Jerusalem riding on a donkey, deliberately fulfilling a prophecy by Zechariah that the Messiah would present Himself as king in just that way: "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass (Zechariah 9:9)."
Whenever we might easily miss the significance of what was going on, the Pharisees come to our rescue. They felt that the overzealous crowd was blaspheming, proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah the King. However, Jesus responded by saying "I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out (Luke 19:40)."
This is the only occasion that Jesus presented Himself as King. It occurred on April 6, 32 AD. When we examine the period between March 14, 445 BC and April 6, 32 AD, and correct for leap years, we discover that it is 173,880 days exactly, to the very day!
It is amazing to realize that Jesus Christ's triumphal entry into Jerusalem was predicted, to the very day, hundreds of years in advance. Keep this extraordinary miracle in mind on Palm Sunday as we celebrate the coming of the Meshiach Nagid, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
For a more complete study of this amazing passage of scripture, see our topical Bible study titled Daniel's 70 Weeks. We also have several other studies on the topic of Christ's death and resurrection: The Easter Story, The Agony of Love, and From Here to Eternity. For more information click on the links below.
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